By Kathryn G. Menu
When customers walk into the iconic Variety Store on Sag Harbor’s Main Street this week, they will find themselves surrounded by chocolate bunnies, bright yellow marshmallow Peeps, bonnets, flowers, toys and a dazzling array of Easter baskets all waiting to be filled.
The Sag Harbor Variety Store, also known as the Five and Dime, prides itself on boasting an abundance of seasonal and holiday-themed merchandise, general manager Lisa Field said this week, but it also is the kind of store where shoppers can find a spool of thread or a potato peeler in a pinch, year round.
Easter is a special holiday for The Variety, with the Field family serving as an intrinsic part of the festivities in Sag Harbor.
“My family had always done the Lions Club Easter Egg Hunt when we were children and then we took our own kids,” said Field, adding that the store is closed on Easter Sunday so they can enjoy the egg hunt at Mashashimuet Park, followed by a family feast.
Field has become an involved member of The Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce in recent years, and she also participates and helps sponsor the Easter Bonnet Sidewalk Parade the Saturday before Easter, before heading down to her brother, Phil Bucking, Jr.’s business – The Sag Harbor Garden Center on Spring Street – for their annual petting zoo.
“My kids help me decorate the bonnets and we lead the parade to the garden center and petting zoo,” said Field. “That Saturday is an important and fun day for the family. The cousin’s get together. It’s really a two-day family event.”
While Sag Harbor has had a variety store since 1922, Field’s parents, Phil and Roseann Bucking purchased the business at its current location in 1970. Field said her parents, one a stay-at-home mother and the other an employee of the Bulova Watchcase Factory, wanted to strike out on their own, and after learning The Variety was for sale, they jumped at the opportunity.
Phil, Sr. passed away a year-and-a-half ago, but Roseann can still be found at The Variety, although Field now manages the day-to-day operations. Despite having worked in the store since childhood, Field continues to be enthusiastic about her work.
“I really liked it,” said Field of her early days at The Variety. “Sag Harbor is a really good community. The people are great. But what I like about it, what keeps me motivated, is the store is constantly changing. There is always something seasonal or new that is coming in.”
The Variety Store is one of just a few places that hark back to a simpler, quieter time on the East End, where shoppers went to just one store for their basic household needs, crafts and toys for the kids. Field said her goal is for customers to walk into The Variety, and be greeted by seasonal and holiday-related goods, whether candy canes, menorahs and wreaths at Christmas and Hanukah, or beach balls and toys for the sandbox in the late spring.
The Variety is currently awash in the bright colors of Easter and spring, a welcome sight, said Field, after the brutal winter the East End just experienced. In addition to traditional candies, The Variety also has a number of small toys perfect for an Easter basket.
“People are a little more conscious about not just filling the baskets with sugar,” Field said, admitting even she has trouble staying away from the Cadbury Crème Eggs on the Variety Store’s counter.
“A lot of the seasonal stuff is planned almost six months to a year in advance,” said Field. “For something like Christmas, we are ordering items in January. As soon as one holiday or season is over, we kick into gear for the next. Right now, for example, we might be geared up for Easter, but in the back of my mind I am thinking about how spring is coming and, after that, summer.”
That being said, Field noted The Variety’s top priority is ensuring customers can always find basic items – yarn, office supplies, white socks and t-shirts and toys – the necessities of day-to-day life.
“It used to be kind of a family joke – stick to the basics,” said Field. “But that is really what is important. We are a Variety Store, so we have to have everything; but we can’t lose sight of having those items around. New items are always coming in, but you always want to make sure you have a potato peeler, you have a spool of thread.”
The Sag Harbor Variety Store is located at 45 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 725-9706.